The Cross Trust beneficiary Ruairidh Macleod has recently had an article published, in The Royal Society Biology Letters Journal, about DNA preserved in ambergris. The full article can be read here.
The article has been accompanied by press coverage including an article in the New York Times, which can be read here. James Barret, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge commented on the article:
“The discovery that ambergris yields such good DNA preservation opens up new opportunities for studying both the use of this precious raw material and whale biology,”
The research relates to ambergris, which is found on beaches all around the word and it has always been believed to come from sperm whales. However, there has never been any direct evidence to support this. Ruairidh and his colleagues extracted and analysed DNA from ambergris from beaches around the world. The analysis confirms that all the jetsam samples came originally from sperm whales. These results demonstrate significant implications for explaining the origins of ambergris as a precious natural product and provide more of an understanding of the sperm whale.